Is Tobago just another Government Campus Plaza? After reading the front page article in the Sunday Guardian of September 22 on the 2.4 billion plaza project, all Tobagonians should be convinced of the Central Government’s intent to stymie the development of Tobago. It is downright obscene that the cost to build FIVE BUILDINGS on ONE PROJECT called ‘the Government Campus Plaza’ is expected to cost in excess of $2.4 billion, which is the sum total that the Tobago House of Assembly was given in its fiscal 2014 allocation, for both the recurrent and the development expenditure. In fact, the development allocation was only 346 million dollars.
The cynical, devious and disingenuous actions of this Government are even more troubling when, in the middle of its term of office where the 2010 manifesto is still relevant and a 2015 manifesto with new promises is eminent, this government demonstrates its contempt for the people of Tobago in its budgetary allocations of $2.4 billion and its lack of commitment to deliver on three year old promises.
Tobagonians must not forget this government’s policy on giving with one hand while taking back with a larger hand. The 2010 election campaign on “axe the tax” is now proving to be another hoax that took a little longer to expose than the failed senior citizen grant, since the 2014 budget indicates that the tax that was axed, is now back. The Minister of Finance, in his budget statement, also boasted of a free zone designation for the Tobago Cove project. That concession is long overdue but the cynicism of this Government becomes evident when it is recognised that he has given zero funding for the development of the same Cove project. The Tourism Rolling Plan has been underfunded and the removal of the subsidy for fuel from Caribbean Airlines will have negative implications for Tobago’s tourism sector.
The Minister was also disturbingly vague on the repairs to the Crown Point airport which was one of the first commitments that Jack Warner made, during his stint as the Minister of Works. The government has again underfunded the Caregivers programme that takes care of our elderly who have served this island and country faithfully and,once again, they have given woefully inadeqate sums to the financial assistance support programme for tertiary level education that assists in developing our young aspiring minds.
Tobagonians and Trinidadians alike, must pay attention and not be fooled by the empty promises and election gimmicry from a People’s Partnership goverment which is prepared to have the Ministry of Housing use over 2.4 billion on ONE development project with five buildings, but gives only 20 million to the Tobago Housing Division to build 20 houses and take away hope from 6000 families that are on the waiting list. In addition, zero funding was given for the home improvement subsidy where hundreds of Tobagonians have received the subsidy and the thousands more on the waiting list, run the risk of not getting it. They gave “a big fat zero” to the CEPEP programme and underfunded by 80%, the Unemployment Relief Programme ( URP ) that provides bread and hope to thousands of families on this island. It is clear that the People’s Partnership government, their TOP partners, including Tobago representatives Baker and Toppin, no longer even care about the basic needs of food and shelter in Tobago, let alone the development of the island and its people.
It is also instructive that the 2010 manifesto promise and 2013 election promise of internal self government for Tobago was notably absent from Minister Howai’s pronouncements while he widely discussed other political issues, including the proposed change to the country’s constitution, with special reference to the right of recall and term limits for the Prime Minister. This omission totally disregards the pledges made to the people of Tobago during both election campaigns and is evidence that this government is not just proficient in election gimmicry but is also intent on punishing the people of Tobago, for exercising their democratic right to reject the most incompetent, corrupt, and ineffective government that this country has ever seen. It is clear that despite the ranting of Minister Baker and his fast dwindling TOP clan, the central government has no intention to honour its commitment to the people of Tobago for the granting of full internal self government.
The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement therefore applauds the PNM administration in the Tobago House of Assembly for its consistent and mature approach in challenging circumstances. The initiative to discuss the truncated allocation at a recent two day retreat and the commitment to Tobagonians by reporting in the House at the October sitting must be applauded. The Council places on record that it will support any strategy that the Assembly implements to coerce the government into doing the right thing by Tobagonians.
The Tobago Council further urges all residents of Tobago to get involved and reiterates that the battle for internal self government can only be won if all Tobagonians are involved and committed, so that value of Tobago’s development will not be equated to one project in one Ministry - a ‘government campus plaza of five (5) buildings costing $2.4 billion’.